Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer addresses the Chamber, I would like to point out that British Sign Language interpretation of the statement is available to watch on parliamentlive.tv.
Mr Speaker, today’s spending review delivers on the priorities of the British people. Our health emergency is not yet over and our economic emergency has only just begun, so our immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods. But today’s spending review also delivers stronger public services, paying for new hospitals, better schools and safer streets, and it delivers a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure, creating jobs, growing the economy and increasing pride in the places we call home.
Our immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods, so let me begin by updating the House on our response to coronavirus. We are prioritising jobs, businesses and public services through the furlough scheme, support for the self-employed, loans, grants, tax cuts and deferrals, as well as extra funding for schools, councils, the NHS, charities, culture and sport. Today’s figures confirm that, taken together, we are providing £280 billion to get our country through coronavirus. Next year, to fund our programmes on testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines, we are allocating an initial £18 billion. To protect the public services most affected by coronavirus, we are also providing: £3 billion to support NHS recovery, allowing it to carry out up to a million checks, scans and operations; over £2 billion to keep our transport arteries open, subsidising our rail network; more than £3 billion to local councils; and an extra £250 million to help end rough sleeping. Although much of our coronavirus response is UK-wide, the Government are also providing £2.6 billion to support the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Taken together, next year, public services funding to tackle coronavirus will total £55 billion.
Let me turn to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s economic forecasts. I thank the new chair, Richard Hughes, and his whole team for their work. The OBR forecasts that the economy will contract this year by 11.3%, the largest fall in output for more than 300 years. As the restrictions are eased, it expects the economy to start recovering and growing by 5.5% next year, 6.6% in 2022 and then 2.3%, 1.7% and 1.8% in the following years. Even with growth returning, our economic output is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until the fourth quarter of 2022. The economic damage is likely to be lasting. Long-term scarring means in 2025, the economy will be around 3% smaller than expected in the March Budget.
The economic impact of coronavirus and the action we have taken in response means that there has been a significant but necessary increase in our borrowing and debt. The UK is forecast to borrow a total of £394 billion this year, equivalent to 19% of GDP—the highest recorded level of borrowing in our peacetime history. Borrowing falls to £164 billion next year and to £105 billion in ’22-’23, then remains at around £100 billion, or 4% of GDP, for the remainder of the forecast. Underlying debt, after removing the temporary effect of the Bank of England’s asset purchases, is forecast to be 91.9% of GDP this year. Due to elevated borrowing levels and a forecast persistent current deficit, underlying debt is forecast to continue rising in every year, reaching 97.5% of GDP in ’25-’26.
High as these costs are, the costs of inaction would have been far higher. But this situation is clearly unsustainable over the medium term. We could only act in the way we have because we came into this crisis with strong public finances. We have a responsibility, once the economy recovers, to return to a sustainable fiscal position.
This is an economic emergency. That is why we have taken, and continue to take, extraordinary measures to protect people’s jobs and incomes. It is clear that those measures are making a difference. The OBR now states, as the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund already have, that our economic response has protected jobs, supported incomes and helped businesses to stay afloat. It has said today that business insolvencies have fallen compared with last year, and the latest data shows the UK’s unemployment rate is lower than that of Italy, France, Spain, Canada and the United States.
We are doing more to build on our plan for jobs. I am announcing today nearly £3 billion for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to deliver a new three-year restart programme to help over a million people who have been unemployed for over a year to find new work. But I have always said: we cannot protect every job. Despite the extraordinary support we have provided, the OBR expects unemployment to rise to a peak, in the second quarter of next year, of 7.5%— 2.6 million people. Unemployment is then forecast to fall in every year, reaching 4.4% by the end of 2024.
Today’s statistics remind us of something else. Coronavirus has deepened the disparity between public and private sector wages. In the six months to September, private sector wages fell by nearly 1% compared with last year. Over the same period, public sector wages rose by nearly 4%. Unlike workers in the private sector, who have lost jobs, been furloughed, and seen wages cut and hours reduced, the public sector has not. In such a difficult context for the private sector, especially for those people working in sectors such as retail, hospitality and leisure, I cannot justify a significant across-the-board pay increase for all public sector workers.
Instead, we are targeting our resources at those who need it most. To protect public sector jobs at this time of crisis, and to ensure fairness between the public and private sectors, I am taking three steps today. First, taking account of the pay review bodies’ advice, we will provide a pay rise to over a million nurses, doctors and others working in the NHS. Secondly, to protect jobs, pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused next year. But, thirdly, we will protect those on lower incomes; the 2.1 million public sector workers who earn below the median wage of £24,000 will be guaranteed a pay rise of at least £250. What this means is that while the Government are making the difficult decision to control public sector pay, the majority of public sector workers will see their pay increase next year.
And we want to do more for the lowest paid. We are accepting in full the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission to increase the national living wage by 2.2% to £8.91 an hour; to extend this rate to those aged 23 and over; and to increase the national minimum wage rates as well. Taken together, these minimum wage increases will likely benefit around 2 million people. A full-time worker on the national living wage will see their annual earnings increase by £345 next year—compared with the position in 2016, when the policy was first introduced, that is a pay rise of over £4,000.
These are difficult and uncertain economic times, so it is right that our immediate priority is to protect people’s health and their jobs, but we need to look beyond. Today’s spending review delivers stronger public services—our second priority. Before I turn to the details, let me thank the whole Treasury team, and especially my right hon. the Chief Secretary, for their dedication and hard work in preparing today’s spending review. Next year, total departmental spending will be £540 billion. Over this year and next, day-to-day departmental spending will rise, in real terms, by 3.8%—that is the fastest growth rate in 15 years. In cash terms, day-to-day departmental budgets will increase next year by £14.8 billion.
And this is a spending review for the whole United Kingdom. Through the Barnett formula, today’s decisions increase Scottish Government funding by £2.4 billion, Welsh Government funding by £1.3 billion and Northern Ireland Executive funding by £0.9 billion. The whole of the United Kingdom will benefit from the UK shared prosperity fund, and over time we will ramp up funding so that total domestic UK-wide funding will at least match EU receipts, on average, reaching around £1.5 billion a year. To help local areas prepare for the introduction of the UKSPF, next year we will provide funding for communities to pilot programmes and new approaches. And we will accelerate four city and growth deals in Scotland, helping Tay Cities, Borderlands, Moray and the Scottish islands create jobs and prosperity in their areas.
Our public spending plans deliver on the priorities of the British people. Today’s spending review honours our historic, multi-year commitment to the NHS. Next year, the core health budget will grow by £6.6 billion, allowing us to deliver 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more general practice appointments. We are increasing capital investment by £2.3 billion: to invest in new technologies; to improve the patient and staff experience; to replace ageing diagnostic machines such as MRI and CT scanners; and to fund the biggest hospital building programme in a generation, building 40 new hospitals and upgrading 70 more. We are investing in social care, too. Today’s settlement allows local authorities to increase their core spending power by 4.5%. Local authorities will have extra flexibility on council tax and the adult social care precept, which, together with £300 million of new grant funding, gives them access to an extra £1 billion to fund social care—and this is on top of the extra £1 billion social care grant we provided this year, which I can confirm will be maintained.
To provide a better education for our children, we are also getting on with our three-year investment plan for schools. We will increase the schools budget next year by £2.2 billion, so we are well on the way to delivering our commitment of an extra £7.1 billion by 2022-23.
Every pupil in the country will see a year-on-year funding increase of at least 2%, and we are funding the Prime Minister’s commitment to rebuild 500 schools over the next decade. We are also committed to boosting skills, with £291 million to pay for more young people to go into further education, £1.5 billion to rebuild colleges, £375 million to deliver the Prime Minister’s lifetime skills guarantee and extend traineeships, sector-based work academies and the National Careers Service, as well as improving the way the apprenticeships system works for businesses.
We are also making our streets safer. Next year, funding for the criminal justice system will increase by over £1 billion. We are providing more than £400 million to recruit 6,000 new police officers—well on track to recruit 20,000—and £4 billion over four years to provide 18,000 new prison places. New hospitals, better schools, safer streets—the British people’s priorities are this Government’s priorities.
Today’s spending review strengthens the United Kingdom’s place in the world. This country has always been and will always be open and outward-looking, leading in solving the world’s toughest problems. But during a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services, sticking rigidly to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people, especially when we are seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record. I have listened with great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target, but at a time of unprecedented crisis, Government must make tough choices. I want to reassure the House that we will continue to protect the world’s poorest, spending the equivalent of 0.5% of our national income on overseas aid in 2021, allocating £10 billion at this spending review. Our intention is to return to 0.7% when the fiscal situation allows. Based on the latest OECD data, the UK would remain the second highest aid donor in the G7—higher than France, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States. And 0.5% is also considerably more than the 29 countries on the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, which average just 0.38%.
Overseas aid is, of course, only one of the ways we play our role in the world. The Prime Minister has announced over £24 billion of investment in defence over the next four years—the biggest sustained increase in 30 years—allowing us to provide security not just for our country, but around the world. We are investing more in our extensive diplomatic network, already one of the largest in the world, and providing more funding for new trade deals. We should, however, judge our standing in the world not just by the money we spend, but by the causes we advance and the values we defend.
If this spending review’s first priority was getting the country through coronavirus and its second was stronger public services, then our final priority is to deliver our record investment plans in infrastructure. Capital spending next year will total £100 billion— £27 billion more in real terms than last year. Our plans deliver the highest sustained level of public investment in more than 40 years —once-in-a-generation plans to deliver once-in-a-generation returns for our country.
To build housing, we are introducing a £7.1 billion national home building fund, on top of our £12.2 billion affordable homes programme. We will deliver faster broadband for over 5 million premises across the UK, better mobile connectivity with 4G coverage across 95% of the country by 2025, the biggest ever investment in new roads, upgraded railways, new cycle lanes and over 800 zero-emission buses. Our capital plans will invest in the greener future we promised, delivering the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for climate change. We are making this country a scientific superpower, with almost £15 billion of funding for research and development, and we are publishing today a comprehensive new national infrastructure strategy. To help finance our plans, I can also announce that we will establish a new UK infrastructure bank. Headquartered in the north of England, the bank will work with the private sector to finance major new investment projects across the United Kingdom, starting this spring.
I have one further announcement to make. For many people, the most powerful barometer of economic success is the change they see and the pride they feel in the places we call home. People want to be able to look around their towns and villages, and say, “Yes, our community—this place—is better off than it was five years ago.” For too long our funding approach has been complex and ineffective, and I want to change that. Today I am announcing a new levelling-up fund worth £4 billion. Any local area will be able to bid directly to fund local projects.
The fund will be managed jointly between the Treasury, the Department for Transport and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, taking a new, holistic, place-based approach to the needs of local areas. Projects must have real impact, they must be delivered within this Parliament and they must command local support, including from their Member of Parliament. This is about funding the infrastructure of everyday life: a new bypass; upgraded railway stations; less traffic; more libraries, museums and galleries; better high streets and town centres. This Government are funding the things that people want and places need.
Today I have announced huge investment in jobs, public services and infrastructure, yet I cannot deny that numbers alone can ring hollow. They stand testament to our commitment to create a better nation, but on their own they are not enough to create one. When asked what our vision for the future of this country is, we cannot point to a shopping list of announcements and feel that the job is done. So as we invest billions in research and development, we are also introducing a new immigration system, ensuring that the best and brightest from around the world come here to learn, innovate and create. As we invest billions in the building of new homes, we are also simplifying our planning system to ensure that beautiful homes are built where they are needed most. As we invest billions in the security of this country, we are also defending free speech and democratic rule, proving that our values are more than just words. And as we invest billions in public services, we are also protecting the wages of those on the lowest incomes and supporting jobs, because good work remains the most rewarding and sustainable path to prosperity.
The spending review announced today sets us on a path to deal with the material matters of Government and it is a clear statement of our priorities, but encouraging the individual and community brilliance on which a thriving society depends remains, as ever, a work unfinished. We in government can set the direction. Better schools, more homes, stronger defence, safer streets, green energy, technological development, improved rail and enhanced roads: all investments that will create jobs and give every person in this country the chance to meet their potential. But it is the individual, the family and the community that must become stronger, healthier and happier as a result. This is the true measure of our success. The spending announced today is secondary to the courage, wisdom, kindness and creativity it unleashes. These are the incalculable but essential parts of our future, and they cannot be mandated or distributed by Government. These things must come from each of us, and be shared freely, because the future—this better country—is a common endeavour.
Today, Government have funded the priorities of the British people, and now the job of delivering them begins. Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.
This is an important statement, which is why it has run much longer than usual, but that was agreed with the Chancellor. Obviously, I have divided up the time to give an increase to the other parties as well. I call the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. This spending review was a moment for the Chancellor to take the responsible choices that our country needs. It was an opportunity to protect key workers, secure the economy and recover jobs in every part of our country.
During this crisis, we have seen who has taken responsibility: community health workers working round the clock to keep us all safe; the teachers who kept working so that key workers could too; the delivery drivers and shop staff who made sure that we had critical food supplies. Earlier this year, the Chancellor stood on his doorstep and clapped for key workers. Today, his Government institute a pay freeze for many of them. This takes a sledgehammer to consumer confidence. Firefighters, police officers and teachers will know that their spending power is going down, so they will spend less in our small businesses and on our high streets; they will spend less in our private sector. Many key workers, who willingly took on so much responsibility during this crisis, are now being forced to tighten their belts now; not in the medium term to which the Chancellor refers, but now.
In contrast, there has been a bonanza for those who have won contracts from this Government. Companies with political connections have been 10 times more likely to win Government contracts. So many businesses have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to support local communities, to keep critical supplies going and to produce drugs and vaccines—at cost price in AstraZeneca’s case—working with some of our country’s best scientists. But in their response to this pandemic, the Conservative Government have wasted and mismanaged public finances on an industrial scale: £130 million to a Conservative donor for testing kits that were unsafe; £150 million for face masks and £700 million on coveralls that could not be used; a £12 billion hit to our economy because the more effective, shorter, circuit breaker was blocked and a lengthier, more expensive lockdown put in place instead; £12 billion so far spent on a test and trace system that is still not working; and, today, news of £10 billion in additional costs for personal protective equipment, which was at least partly down to the Conservatives’ lack of pre-pandemic planning.
This waste and mismanagement is part of a longer-term pattern, showing that claims today around levelling up simply do not match the evidence: hospitals in Liverpool and Sandwell left unbuilt, over deadline by years and over budget by hundreds of millions of pounds; not a single starter home built, despite almost £200 million being spent; Northern Powerhouse Rail still not even approved six years after being announced; the courts modernisation programme three years behind schedule, letting victims down up and down the country; and people in the north more likely to have been made redundant during this crisis holding everything else equal.
Photo calls are not enough. We need delivery like the promotion of green manufacturing in the west midlands by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) and the work of Labour Mayors and councils across the country. We need a Government in Westminster who take their responsibility towards all four nations seriously. That means informing the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland about the shorter timescale for this spending review ahead of time and fulfilling the “New Decade, New Approach” commitments. It means doing the right thing by the people of Wales to repair flood damage and make safe legacy coal tips. It means ending the barney between Westminster and Holyrood and instead working together in partnership to protect jobs and livelihoods.
It means a shared prosperity fund that is effective because it is delivered not on the whim of Conservative Ministers but from our devolved Governments and our regions. The levelling-up fund that the Chancellor just announced—his rabbit out of the hat—yet again, just as with the Beeching reopening programme, involves MPs going to Ministers and begging for support for their areas, rather than that change being driven from local communities. So much for taking back control! This is about the centre handing over support in a very top-down manner.
Labour has been clear about the responsible choices that we wanted the Chancellor to make today to recover jobs, retrain workers and rebuild businesses. To recover jobs, Labour called for £30 billion of capital spending accelerated over the next 18 months, focused on green initiatives, supporting 400,000 jobs and bringing us in line with countries such as France and Germany. This Government’s ambition is for half that number of new jobs. To retrain workers, we needed an emergency programme to support people back into work, but kick- start has been slow to get started, and the skills offer for those over 25 will not start until April. The Chancellor said at the beginning of his speech that our economic emergency “has only just begun”—try telling that to people who have been out of work since March.
Restart, announced today, must meet three key tests to be effective. It should help people who need it most, not cherry-pick. It should be up and running as soon as possible, yet it appears that only a fraction of Restart funding will be available next year. And it must involve local actors who know their communities, not be imposed from Whitehall. Of course, job search support ultimately only works if sufficient new jobs actually exist. That is why we needed ambitious action to boost our economy and to support our businesses.
To rebuild business, we called for a national investment bank. I welcome the announcement of a new UK infrastructure bank, given that valuable years have been lost since the Green Investment Bank was sold off. Now the Chancellor must boost its firepower, and he must deliver on his Department’s responsibility for the drive to net zero. We have known since the Stern report that the climate crisis is the biggest long-term threat to our economy, yet far too often, this spending review locks us into a path that will make the transition to net zero harder, not easier, locking our economy out of the green jobs of the future.
To rebuild business, the Chancellor also needs to listen to business. We are less than a week from the end of the lockdown, yet we have heard nothing about whether extra support will be provided through the additional restrictions support grant for areas subject once again to tough restrictions. The Chancellor is still threatening employers with an increased contribution to furlough in January, at the worst possible time for increasing and building confidence.
In fewer than 40 days, we are due to leave the transition period, yet the Chancellor did not even mention that in his speech. There is still no trade deal, so does the Chancellor truly believe that his Government are prepared and that he has done enough to help those businesses that will be heavily affected? Will he take responsible action to help those excluded from Government support? Why is he still refusing to make the speedy fixes to universal credit that Labour has advocated, which would aid the self-employed, and why will he not provide families with certainty by ensuring that the increase in universal credit continues beyond April?
The IMF has made it clear time and again that now would be the worst time to slam on the brakes and put the car into reverse. It has called for a “meaningful additional push” from our Government to maintain fiscal support until the recovery is on a sound footing. The UK’s GDP is 10% smaller now than it was at the end of last year. We have seen the worst downturn in the G7. We needed ambitious action today to stimulate growth and maintain demand, and we needed the Government to take responsibility for the real reasons why people and communities up and down our country are being held back.
Over the past 10 years, child poverty has risen by 600,000. We have had the worst decade for pay growth in eight generations. The cost of childcare has risen twice as fast as wages. The number of young apprentices has plummeted. Last quarter, we saw the highest level of redundancies on record. Social care is in increasing crisis and, despite the Conservative party’s manifesto having promised a long-term solution, we are still waiting.
It was trailed in the press that the Chancellor would be moving 20,000 jobs out of London, yet cuts to local authorities over the past 10 years have seen 240,000 jobs lost—12 times that figure of 20,000—with the hardest-hit communities often those in the north, midlands and south-west. Today, the Chancellor could have matched his Government’s promise to do whatever is necessary to support local authorities through this crisis; he did not. And yet again he showed his Government’s lack of confidence in their own measures by failing to provide an equality impact assessment.
The measure of this Government will not be the number of press releases issued during this crisis or the number of pictures it published on Instagram; it will be the responsible action that they took, or did not take, for the sake of our country.
Next year, the eyes of the world will be on the UK as we assume the presidencies of the G7 and the UN Security Council and host the COP26 summit, yet now is the time that the Chancellor has turned his back on the world’s poorest by cutting international aid. It is in Britain’s national interest to lay the foundations for economic growth around the world—no wonder many British businesses have condemned his move.
Businesses have been more and more vocal about the problems with this Government’s last-minute approach, always one step behind when we need to plan responsibly for the future. We must learn the lessons from previous failures and ensure that the next challenge—the roll-out of the vaccine—is dealt with as efficiently, effectively and speedily as possible.
Next time, we need a comprehensive spending review that takes responsible choices—to build a future for our country as the best place in the world to grow up in and the best place to grow old in. People should have opportunities on their doorstep, not at the other end of the country. Everywhere in the UK should feel like a good place to set up home. That is what the Chancellor must deliver.
I will address all the points made by the hon. Lady in turn, but it is important to note, up front, that despite her criticisms, there is actually a lot that she and her Opposition colleagues should welcome: more funding for public services; a pay increase for NHS workers; support for those on the lowest incomes; a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure; a multi-billion pound commitment to support those looking for work; a new schools building programme; and the Prime Minister’s 10- point plan. I could go on, Mr Speaker.
It is right that the hon. Lady should provide challenge, but I think, even if she does not, that the British people will judge this spending review as a reflection of their priorities: protecting jobs, defeating coronavirus, strengthening our public services and upgrading our infrastructure. If there is any politics here at all, surely it is unifying, and I think that, deep down, she will recognise that.
Let me address the specific points. The hon. Lady asked about pay and the importance of consumption, and I agree that of course there is an impact on consumption from pay. She will know that the marginal propensity to consume is obviously greater the lower down the income spectrum you go, which is why, in particular, we have protected the incomes of those on lower incomes.
Anyone in the public sector earning less than the UK median salary of £24,000 will receive a pay rise of £250 or more. Taken together with all the other things we have done, including giving a pay rise for those who work in the NHS, this will mean that the majority of public sector workers will see an increase in their pay next year. Also, pay progression and promotions—all of that—will carry on. We have increased wages for those on the national living wage: an extra £345 a year, as the wage rate goes up to £8.91. That, again, will help to drive consumption.
The hon. Lady rightly talked about delivery. We believe very firmly in making sure we can deliver the change we promised the British people. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Steve Barclay) and I chair something called project speed, which is already delivering benefits, with plans for the landmark A66 upgrade shortened in time and reduced in cost, so we can get on with delivering what the people want on time and on budget, making a difference in their communities.
The hon. Lady asked about the levelling up fund and, I thought rather bizarrely, seemed to suggest that local Members of Parliament were not a good reflection on their local communities and able to articulate the local needs of their communities. I say to colleagues on the Opposition Benches that I am more than happy to hear from them and their local areas about the needs that they want met, because this Government will meet the needs of local communities up and down the country.
The hon. Lady talked about support for businesses during coronavirus. We have already put in place support through this winter period. The local restrictions grants we announced a while ago are paid monthly and they work. If your business has been closed, you will receive a grant of up to £3,000 per month depending on your rateable value. If you are a hospitality, leisure or accommodation business in a tier 2 area, where obviously the restrictions have an impact on your ability, you will receive a grant of 70% of that value up to £2,100. Those amounts mean that the business can help to cover the fixed costs of rent. They, of course, have access to the furlough scheme right the way through winter.
That comes on top of the other recent support announced for businesses. Today, I announced major reforms to the way the apprenticeship system works, giving businesses what they have long asked for: the flexibility to spend unused apprenticeship levy funds down the supply chain with small and medium-sized enterprises, and the ability to frontload payments for training. We are also looking at ways to introduce even more flexibility for some professions. We also recently announced an extension of the annual investment allowance for a further year up to £1 million, giving 98% of small and medium-sized businesses the ability to write off investments in full next year, which will help to drive their recovery.
The hon. Lady talked about welfare. Again, I stand proud of this Government’s and previous Conservative Governments’ record on this issue since 2010: hundreds of thousands fewer people in absolute poverty; several hundred thousand fewer children living in workless households; and income inequality lower coming into this crisis than when we first came into office.
This Government care greatly about those who are most vulnerable. We have demonstrated that during this crisis by the support we have put in place. The evidence shows that those on the lowest incomes have been protected the most by this Conservative Government. And that does not stop. The temporary uplift in universal credit runs all the way through to next spring, providing security for those families. Of course we will look, when we come to next spring, at the best way to support people and their families when we have a better sense of where the economy is and where we are with the virus, but we are providing extra support for next year: £670 million to help struggling families meet their council tax bills, worth about £150 each for families up and down the country. We also said we will maintain the £1 billion increase in the local housing allowance that we instituted this year into next year, providing support for many millions of families. We are also making available further funds, as the House knows, to provide extra support for food and meals for children throughout the holidays next year.
The hon. Lady talked about support for local authorities. Perhaps she has not seen it yet in the document—that is fair enough—but we announced over £3.5 billion of extra support for local authorities next year specifically to deal with coronavirus. That comes on top of their core spending power increasing at decade-level highs of 4.5%. That £3.5 billion is there to help to meet the shortfall in sales fees and charges, and the unrecoverable losses in business rates and council tax that they have experienced this year, as well as £1.5 billion for general pressures. Let no one say that we are not standing behind our local authorities at this difficult time.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked about green issues. I think she compared us with France and Germany and questioned this Government’s and the Prime Minister’s ambition. Let me say this about our plans. They are, I believe, among the most comprehensive and ambitious of any developed economy. She talked about France and Germany, but in this country we are phasing out certain vehicles in 2030; in France, it is 2040. In this country, we are phasing out coal in 2025; in Germany, it is 2038. She talked about the billions of pounds being spent by our friends, but it is important when we make these international comparisons that we understand the detail of what the other countries promise. The German numbers include the subsidies for renewables; ours do not. That happens separately outside our plan and is worth £44 billion, supporting renewable energy in this country through the tariff system, which is what Germany alluded to. The German numbers also include support for public transport, which ours of course do not, because that is something we do just in the ordinary course of business. I am proud of this Conservative Government’s record. We are the first major economy in the world to legislate for net zero, and our economy has decarbonised faster than any other in the last 20 years. This Conservative Government will deliver the Prime Minister’s plans to get us to net zero, and that is something that I hope the whole House can welcome and support.
In conclusion, this spending review puts the full force of the Government behind the priorities of the British people, and while we may have many disagreements with the Opposition, I am confident that, in private at least, they will recognise the significant investment we are making to protect jobs, strengthen our public services and improve our infrastructure. We in this House are all answerable to the people we represent, and it is in their interests that we serve. Today, we have made some difficult choices to fulfil that responsibility, but with the positive news about the development of vaccines, the winter covid plan being announced by the Prime Minister and the very real hope that we are finally entering the final stages of our fight against coronavirus, now is the time for us to come together. The British people have been through so much this year, as have right hon. and hon. Members, and it is my belief that, with this spending review and the fresh hope given by medical advances, we can finally begin our recovery. Now, difficult decisions and all, we must deliver on the priorities of the British people.
I very much welcome many of the positive measures that my right hon. Friend has just announced. However, he has inevitably revealed some of the more difficult decisions that he has to make around a reduction in overseas development aid and the freezing of public sector pay next year—not across the board but on a selective basis—and there will be many difficult decisions of that type around spending and taxation in the future. Does he agree that, in terms of dealing with the deficit, it is not just about spending and taxation but also very much about growth? Does he also agree that we should look to private sector businesses and entrepreneurs to provide that growth? Can he set out how he is going to ensure that, as we come out on the other side of the crisis, businesses and entrepreneurs are given every possible support and freedom to power our economy forward over the years ahead?
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend that we will build our recovery through the dynamism of the private sector, and he is right about the power of entrepreneurship. Probably the most important thing we can do in that regard is to make it as easy as possible for businesses to take on new people. He will have heard about the unemployment numbers. We want to get as many of those people back into work as quickly as possible, so we will be looking at how we can make that as easy as possible for those dynamic businesses that are growing. At a very micro level in this spending review, we have also announced more funding for our start-up loan scheme, which provides discounted Government-backed loans of up to £50,000 for budding entrepreneurs to start their new businesses at the smallest level. I hope that that is something that he will support.
This spending review was an important opportunity and an important test, and instead of posing for photographs in his favourite hoodie, the Chancellor should have been listening to those who are struggling. Spending £29 million on a festival of Brexit while they let weans go hungry at home and abroad just about sums up this tawdry Government. Reneging on the 0.7% aid commitment while the world struggles with a covid pandemic is just cruel. He says he has come to talk about jobs, but how many jobs has this Chancellor cost? Last month, the Office for National Statistics reported that since March 2020 the number of payroll employees has fallen by 782,000, and how many job losses could have been avoided if the Chancellor had not wound back furlough and threatened to cut it short? With a reported £1.4 billion for Jobcentre Plus, will he restore the job centres in Scotland that were closed by his Government?
What about those who have been ignored, patched, and blanked by the Chancellor at every turn—those excluded from his support schemes altogether, many of them limited company directors, freelancers, short-term PAYE workers, new starters and those on maternity leave, who have had absolutely nothing at all from this UK Government? He knows this and it is unjustifiable. He might have had some excuse back in March and April, but we are now in November, so I ask him: what does he expect these 3 million people to live on this winter? Will he look at the proposals for the directors income support scheme and the Equity creatives support scheme? Many of those excluded are in jobs in sectors that cannot safely restart due to the public health restrictions, so he must apologise and he must take action to put it right.
The Chancellor has spoken of the importance of getting young people into jobs, but he has utterly failed to address the reality of low-paid, part-time, precarious work. The Young Women’s Trust says that a staggering 1.5 million young women have lost income since the start of the pandemic. Many of them are in sectors such as retail and hospitality that have been clobbered by covid. What he should be announcing today is a real living wage: £9.50 an hour, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, not his pretendy living wage. I am glad to see that over-23s are eligible, but he said nothing about those in the 21-to-24 bracket, who are on £8.20 an hour, the 18-to-20s, on £6.45 an hour, the under-18s, on £4.55 an hour, and apprentices, on merely £4.15 an hour. What about them? Young people do not get a discount on their rent or their bills due to their age, but this Chancellor continues to short-change them in wages. A fair wage for a day’s work is the very least young people should expect from their Government. In not acknowledging the injustice, the Chancellor fails to protect the rest of our young people.
We need fair wages, too, for public sector workers. It feels like the Government are punishing people for working in the public sector. The absolute heroes who saw us through this pandemic have more than earned their pay. A public sector pay freeze takes £4 billion out of the economy, squeezes living standards and starves the economy of investment at the very worst possible time. These are the hospital porters, the teachers, the jannies, the police officers and the firefighters: those who kept our streets clean and our public services going. All of them—all of them—deserve better than applause on the Chancellor’s doorstep in the summer and a pay freeze in the depths of winter.
Not content with short-changing young people and public sector workers, the Chancellor wants to change RPI in a move that will impact about 10 million pension incomes and cost retirees over £100 billion. SNP Members urge him to see sense and not to pick the pockets of our pensioners. He must also use this spending review to make the £20 uplift to universal credit permanent, scrap the benefit cap and extend the £20 uplift to legacy benefits and those with disabilities—who, for unfathomable reasons, he seems to have forgotten even exist—and to increase the pitiful level of statutory sick pay.
Businesses across the country have been racking up debt while their incomes have not been there. Businesses are terrified by business rates relief coming to an end next year. Will the Chancellor look at this issue so that we can also act in Scotland? Will he make the VAT cut for the hospitality sector permanent to see it through this crisis?
We still await proper details of the shared prosperity fund and what it will mean for Scotland. The Scottish Government have done their part in preparation, and the Chancellor needs to bring forward proposals as a matter of urgency so that we can spend this money properly in Scotland rather than having it hived off to Tories in key seats in England.
The spending review is only for one year, and I appreciate why that is, but this failure to plan effectively for the future is why the UK is doing worst in the G7. What are the Chancellor’s plans for next year if things do not go as he expects? There is nothing in his statement about Brexit and the cost that that will bring, when we see lorries queuing all the way through Kent. We call on him also to make a £98 billion stimulus to invest in a greener, better future for us all. None of this really has anything to do with the strength of the Union; it is merely a reflection of the powers that he has as Chancellor that the Scottish Government do not. So if he will not do these things—if he will not act—he must devolve the full financial powers and let the Scottish Government get on with the job.
Let me run through the hon. Lady’s questions in turn. She asked about my favourite hoodie. I can tell her that it is not the one in the picture, but actually the kickstart hoodie that was given to me by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which I wear with pride.
The hon. Lady asked about the self-employed and again mentioned this number of 3 million people. I would like to address this point properly. It is not a number that I recognise, and I do not think that it is right to describe those people as excluded, as 1.5 million of those people are not majority self-employed; they are people who earn the majority of their income from being employed. That decision was taken to help target the support at those who really needed it. We have heard a lot from Opposition Members about support being targeted, especially regarding the self-employment scheme. That decision was made because if someone earns the majority of their income from employment, it is reasonable to assume that they will benefit from the furlough scheme, and that is how the majority of their earnings come in. That principle was supported at the time by every trade association that I spoke to when designing the scheme. In fact, those conversations were supportive of a much higher threshold than the one that we adopted, which was just “a majority”; others said that 60% or two thirds would be reasonable.
I hope that it is also of comfort to the House to know that the median amount of self-employment income that those 1.5 million people who are not majority self-employed have in their returns is somewhere between £2,000 and £3,000, so it is not the overwhelming part of their earnings. At that level, the universal credit system and other support that we provide will be significant in making up the difference.
The hon. Lady asked about welfare and again mentioned universal credit. I guess it is worth reminding the House that the Scottish Government have plenty of powers over tax policy and welfare policy—and, indeed, have used them in the past. I hear that there is to be a Scottish budget. We look forward to seeing what the Scottish Government decide to do with the powers that they have over both tax and welfare decisions.
The hon. Lady asked about jobs and talked about the OBR. I am glad that the OBR has today joined the IMF and the Bank of England in commending the Government’s economic response and recognising and stating explicitly that the interventions that we have put in place have reduced the level of unemployment and saved people’s jobs. I think that the OBR actually quantified that in its report today, putting the number at hundreds of thousands and confirming what the IMF said—that our response has held down unemployment.
The hon. Lady asked about young people. We are determined to help young people. They have borne the brunt economically of this crisis, which is in part why we created the kickstart scheme—an ambitious programme under which, I think, 19,000 fully funded placements have now been created for those under the age of 24 who are at risk of unemployment. We also provide a cash bonus to businesses to take on new young apprentices. All those things will make a difference to our young people at what is, without question, a very difficult time.
The House will be glad that the Chancellor has met the needs of the poorest, that he is going to maintain the increase to the state pension and that he is ensuring that people get opportunities to get back into work if they have been out of it. He talks about the £250 minimum for the lowest-paid people in the public sector. May I ask him whether that includes people working in local government or just national Government? That would be useful to know.
There will be a welcome for the increase in spending for schools. There are also many other things that people will think are sensible and that could—or should—have been done as the Labour Government went through the crisis in 2008, when they also implemented a public sector pay freeze. May I put it to him that it would be incredible if the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority were to force a pay increase on Members of Parliament when others do not get it? One way or another, will the Government—and perhaps you, Mr Speaker —talk to IPSA and ensure that that does not happen? I have the view that MPs’ pay should only be adjusted after a general election; that may be a minority view, but I think it would be wrong for us to have pay forced on us when others cannot get a pay increase.
Let me turn to overseas aid. When the Departments were merged, the Foreign Secretary said that the 0.7% figure would be maintained. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor was elected in 2015, as I was, under a commitment to meet 0.7%. We were re-elected in 2017, and the only difference in 2019 was that the word “proudly” was put in front of that commitment. I am proud of that commitment. I will work with anyone across the House to make sure that a change of percentage does not happen. Obviously, with our GNP coming down by 10%, the amount that goes on aid will come down automatically. I fight to maintain the pledge that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary and I made at the last general election.
I do not like being brought into the situation on pay. What I would say is that there is no decision on pay; there is no award to MPs. There is a big mistake out there somehow that there is an amount that has been given. Let me reassure the Father of the House that that is not the case. It will not even be looked at til next year—probably later, towards Easter.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his thoughtful and powerful contribution. I respect what he has to say on aid. He is right about the language that was used. He will know the extraordinary circumstances that this country and this Government are grappling with. In order for us to meet our many other commitments and deliver on the British people’s priorities, we have had to make difficult decisions. Of course, it is something that I regret that we have to do, but I believe it is the right decision so that we can keep delivering on the priorities of the people at what is an enormously challenging time.
I turn briefly to my hon. Friend’s other questions. On local government employees, he will know that those pay levels are not mandated by central Government, and local government will typically make its own decisions. With regard to the social care workforce, which I know he also cares about, he will know that many of those workers are on the national living wage and will benefit from the 2.2% uplift—£345—that we have accepted.
On my hon. Friend’s last point, I can tell him that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster wrote on behalf of the Government to IPSA in advance of this statement to inform it of the Government’s approach to public sector pay and to ask it to take that into consideration when it decides what it would like to do. Obviously, it is an independent body, but we have expressed our views in the light of the pay policy that we have announced today.
I listened intently to the Chancellor, but what I did not hear was enough—enough to protect jobs by extending furlough to the summer, enough for those in the public sector who have endured so much in this crisis and now will have a pay freeze, or enough for those millions of families facing enormous financial hardship because they are excluded. I point out to the Chancellor that they do exist; I can give him plenty of examples of people who phone my office every day in deep distress. Will he, for a minute, pause and put himself in the shoes of those 3 million excluded people, and then tell us why he still finds it acceptable to turn his back on them?
I very much hope that the hon. Lady will welcome the £2.4 billion in additional funding that has been provided to the Scottish Government to use as they see fit. Of course, they can use that to support many of the causes that she articulates. In the interests of time, I will not go over the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), but we have provided comprehensive support to those who are self-employed; between 2.5 million and 3 million people have received £14 billion of support, with more to come. It remains one of the most generous ways to treat the self-employed that I have found anywhere in the world.
I welcome this statement and the fact that the Chancellor recognises that debt has to be paid back. May I ask him about the changes in public sector pay? According to the ONS, private sector pay has fallen of late, whereas public sector pay has gone up by about 4%. The Chancellor’s announcement today that the 2 million lowest-paid public sector workers will receive £250 shows, does it not, that they are our priority? They are the people who need this most and they are the people we will give attention to.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It would be wrong to describe a situation in which a majority of those working in the public sector next year will see an increase in their pay as a blanket pay freeze. We have done exactly as he suggests: we have targeted our resources on those who need them most, meaning that over 2.1 million people who earn less than £24,000 in the public sector, who comprise 38% of all those in the public sector, will see that increase of £250 or more in their pay packets.
We welcome the additional £900 million for the Northern Ireland Executive—yet again, a benefit of Northern Ireland being part of this United Kingdom. I think we all believe that nurses, doctors and healthcare workers should receive a decent pay rise, but will the Chancellor acknowledge that there are other public sector workers who have been on the frontline on covid, such as our armed forces and our police officers, and look again at including them in the public sector pay rise? Of course, I agree with the Father of the House that that should not include Members of Parliament.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for welcoming the £900 million in Barnett funding for Northern Ireland. He will be pleased to know that we have had productive conversations about fixing some technical baseline issues for the budgeting as well, which I know will be welcomed by the Executive.
With regard to pay, we are protecting those who earn less than the UK median salary. Whichever part of the public sector they work in, if someone earns less than £24,000, they will receive the £250. It is the right approach to provide that support to those with lower-than-average earnings.
I lend my support to everything said by the Father of the House. Covid-19 means that the Chancellor’s strategy is broken into three phases: first, as we are doing now, spending everything necessary to stop the economy collapsing, which he is doing successfully; secondly, essentially from next spring, doing everything possible to maximise growth and recovery in the economy; and thirdly, after that, when things get on to an even keel, returning to conventional economics. Does he agree that the enormous deficit inevitably created in the first and second phases of the strategy needs to be financed in a similar way to major incidents such as wars, with very long-term bonds, not destructive short-term taxes?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comments. I would distinguish between two things. The borrowing that we are carrying out this year, which is, as he knows, at a peacetime high, is financed through the gilt markets. He will be pleased to know that we push as much as we can to the long end of the curve relative to our international peers; the average maturity of our debt stock is about 14 or 15 years, which is almost double the average of the G7. He is right that we should do that. I would differentiate that from an ongoing structural deficit, which is with us for many years. As he said, our first priority coming out of this will be to get growth going again.
On average, Wales received £400 million a year from EU structural and investment funds, sadly well above the UK per capita average due to our greater relative need. Promises have been made that Wales will receive not a penny less from the UK shared prosperity fund. The Chancellor has stated that he will match total UK funding, but will he also confirm that Wales’ share will not be diminished, that it will represent additional investment, and that the fund will be allocated according to need?
We have said that as the EU funding that we are currently financing runs off, we will step in and replace it up to the tune of about £1.5 billion, which is the UK amount. Obviously there are conversations to be had about how best to allocate that, what kinds of projects, and how it should be done. Some initial thoughts on that are published today, alongside more than £200 million of funding to start piloting the approach and working with communities to see what works best. I know that people in Wales will welcome that and I look forward to seeing the proposals that they come up with.
The Chancellor is quite right that people want to look back and see that their community is better off than before. To pick up on the point about the shared prosperity fund, Cornwall also received European funding and has been promised the shared prosperity fund, but it is often difficult in areas where the population is not so large to demonstrate value for money to the Treasury, and as a result we miss out. As he sets out more on the levelling-up fund and the shared prosperity fund, wages in Cornwall remain stubbornly low. Can he reassure me that those funds will address low wages, provide good jobs, improve skills, and provide the pathway to the skills and opportunities that people in Cornwall need?
I commend my hon. Friend, because he consistently comes to the House to champion his constituents and talk about increasing the opportunities available to them. He is right that we want to make sure that we target our resources at the places where they can make the most difference. I look forward to hearing from him what projects he thinks will be able to transform the lives of his constituents and the communities that they are proud to call home.
The Chancellor speaks of a fiscal emergency, but said not a word today about the climate and nature emergencies. There is a real risk that any green steps will be fatally undermined by the reckless pursuit of business-as-usual, environmentally destructive spending, such as the £27 billion road-building programme. He has said that there can be no lasting prosperity for people if we do not protect the planet, so will he adopt a new economic rule—a net zero test—and assess all spending and fiscal measures against the UK’s climate and nature goals, so that the whole package is properly green?
The Government firmly believe in making sure that the recovery is green. I urge the hon. Lady to have a look at the national infrastructure strategy that we have published today, entitled, “Fairer, faster, greener”, which outlines the funding for all the green measures contained in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan. I think it represents a comprehensive and ambitious path to deliver our net zero commitments.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his courtesy over the weekend and I assure him of my very strong support for virtually all of his package today. As a result of the pandemic here in the UK, 50,000 people have died and we are rightly moving heaven and earth to prevent more deaths here at home. Is he aware that his proposed breaking of the 0.7% promise and the 30% further reduction in cash will be the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children? This is a choice that I for one am not prepared to make. None of us in this House will be able to look our children in the eye and claim that we did not know what we were voting for.
I am enormously grateful to my right hon. Friend for the conversations I have been able to have with him, and I fully respect his passion on this subject. He brings an enormous amount of experience to this House on this topic, and obviously he will have heard the reasons that I set out for doing what we are doing. I believe we can still make a difference to the world’s poorest countries with the measures that we have put in place. The most pressing issue that the developing world faces at the moment is the ability to deliver and deploy a coronavirus vaccine. He will know that we are the largest donor globally to the COVAX advance market commitment, the global initiative that is supporting developing countries’ access to vaccines. Right now, that is probably the most important thing we could be doing. We are doing it. We are leading the world in helping tackle coronavirus. I know that my right hon. Friend and I will carry on this conversation.
The covid pandemic has exposed structural weaknesses in our economy and society, but it is also likely to accelerate change in how people work, live and interact. May I also point out to the Chancellor that the excluded are a genuine problem? One of the difficulties is that the Government are not counting those who are sole directors of limited companies as part of the self-employed, which is how the figures are coming across as confusing. Does the Chancellor accept that public spending should not necessarily assume a restoration of the status quo ante but must be based on a transformation of our society and economy around social justice, inclusion, reskilling and investment in a green new deal?
We want our recovery to be green and the national infrastructure strategy sets out an ambitious way to do that. Skills are at the heart of what we believe, giving people the tools they need to improve their lives and go on to better things. We are funding £375 million today to deliver our commitments on the Prime Minister’s lifetime skills guarantee and other matters. The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that that remains an area of enormous focus for this Government.
In the light of the difficulties the country faces with its finances, I was pleased to see the commitment to infrastructure. Is the Chancellor aware of Hinckley bridge on the A5, which has been awarded the status of “most bashed” bridge in Britain? It has been hit 25 times and causes a delay of six hours every time. It is a prime example of the pinch points littered up and down the A5, which strangle productivity. Will he commit to provide funds to the likes of the A5 to bring prosperity to the midlands and grow our economy out of the covid situation?
My hon. Friend articulates well an example of local pinch points being a blight on communities, stopping people improving the quality of their life and driving growth. It seems like a very good example of the type of project that our new levelling-up fund would be interested in, and I look forward to discussing it with him further.
Throughout the corona crisis, public sector workers in all areas have delivered brilliantly and helped to save lives and look after all our communities. Civil servants have lost 19% in wages over the past 10 years due to austerity, and there is a 12% gender pay gap that affects civil servants. So will the Chancellor recognise the importance of their work and their participation and give an increase of 10% to begin to make up the ground that they have lost over the past 10 years? Instead of saying to them that, as thanks for all their work, they will get a maximum of £5 a week for the lowest paid, will he return to proper national pay bargaining for all civil servants, so that those people who deliver for us are seen to be treated properly and fairly as we come out of the corona crisis?
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman gives me an opportunity to thank my fantastic team of civil servants in the Treasury, who have been extraordinary in their hard work and creativity throughout this crisis, and have remained so over the past few weeks in concluding the spending review. I put on record my thanks to them.
Unsurprisingly, my numbers are slightly different to those of the right hon. Gentleman. According to the ONS, before this crisis even started in 2019, there existed at least a 7% pay premium between the public and private sectors after accounting for characteristics and pensions. That gap no doubt has been exacerbated and widened over the past six to 12 months as a result of widening pay inequality between public and private sector pay. That is why I believe it is fair to take the approach we have, but I share with him a desire to protect those on lower incomes, which is why those 2.1 million people who earn less than £24,000 will receive a pay rise of £250.
I commend the Chancellor for having to make some very difficult decisions, but as President-elect Biden commits to a new era of western leadership, here we are about to mark the start of our G7 presidency by cutting our overseas aid budget. Downgrading our soft power programmes will leave vacuums in some of the poorest parts of the world that will further poverty and instability. It is likely to see China and Russia extending their authoritarian influence by taking our place. Will my right hon. Friend concede that we cannot genuinely claim to be global Britain, or claim to be serious about creating post-conflict strategies for countries such as Libya and Yemen—strategies that could lead to greater UK prosperity —when our hard power is not matched by our soft power? Will he meet me to discuss how these dated rules governing overseas aid should be updated?
My right hon. Friend will I am sure welcome the very significant increase in our defence budget, which he has campaigned for to fix many of the issues of the past. He also alluded to our ability to help lots of different parts of the world in lots of different ways; Libya was one example that he gave. He will know that we are the fifth largest contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping operations. He makes a good point about aid rules. For example, we spend about half a billion pounds every year on peacekeeping and security operations in countries such as Libya, Mali, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. That spending, that difference we make on the ground and that security that we bring to some of the world’s poorest places is not currently counted as overseas development aid.
The Chancellor has spoken well today of the scars that are felt by so many in society due to the triple whammy of covid, climate change and Brexit. Will he outline how he will manage to ring-fence money for mental health within the health spend? Mind, the charity, has said that phone calls have doubled, with many young people experiencing debilitating anxiety, depression and self-harm. Will he urgently look at mental health and ring-fence money for workforce changes, which are desperately needed, and for a decent revenue spend to bring mental health up into line with physical health?
The hon. Lady makes a good point, and I am pleased to tell her that of the £3 billion of extra money for the NHS that we have announced for next year to help recover from coronavirus, half a billion pounds of that is specifically earmarked to address waiting times in mental health services, to give people the support they need and to invest in the workforce that she rightly identified. I hope that gives her some reassurance. That is incremental to the existing NHS plans.
I congratulate the Chancellor on how he has handled the financial pressures that the pandemic has thrown at the Government, by thinking outside the box with brilliant, innovative solutions. However, I cannot support the new tiering system, because it is totally illogical and will force too many people to stay holed up at home. Hospitality businesses will fold in their tens of thousands, and I cannot condone that when they have spent tens of thousands becoming covid-safe.
I will also not support the reduction in the aid budget. This country has made an amazing difference to the lives of millions, but with the reduction of GNI and the proposed cut, the aid budget will be decimated. No longer will girls have 12 years of quality education—resulting in more child marriages, more instances of early childbirth, more female genital mutilation and more domestic violence. We will not be vaccinating millions, preventing polio and TB, providing medication for HIV or preventing malaria. We will be reduced to spending on humanitarian crises in emergencies only—
Order. Please could we just have a question?
So many things will be damaged, and our relations with the developing world will lose the soft influence that we have today. I cannot condone this, and therefore I will not be supporting this statement.
My hon. Friend makes a passionate case, and a right case, for our ability to help provide immunisation to the world’s poorest children. It is something that I proudly support, and I am happy to tell the House that we are the largest donor to the Gavi consortium globally, of any country in the world. That is the multilateral body that provides immunisation against infectious diseases for 75 million children, and as I have said, we are proudly the largest donor to that effort.
I just remind Members that we must not have a speech and eventually a question. Can we get quickly to the questions in order that we can get everybody in?
In this covid crisis, the Government have presided over an horrific double whammy of one of the largest per capita death rates in the world and the deepest recession in the G7, and that is before the Brexit disruption due at the end of the year. Is the Chancellor really proud of his record?
My priority throughout this crisis has been protecting jobs. I am pleased to see that that is something the OBR, the Bank of England and the IMF all acknowledge has happened as a result of our interventions. We currently have an unemployment rate that is lower than Italy, France, Spain, Canada and the United States. So, yes, I do think what we are doing is making a difference to millions of people up and down the country.
Can I commend all the work that the Chancellor has done this year? Many constituents I speak to credit him personally with keeping them in a job. I am also pleased to see that, despite the financial pressures, the Chancellor is investing in transport. We see multi-year settlements for road, rail and active travel, and changes to the way infrastructure projects are appraised to increase the number of transport projects in deprived parts of the country, as well as a green book, a national infrastructure strategy, a red book and a £4 billion levelling up fund—and I am pleased to see that the Department for Transport is a sponsor. Can I ask him to keep a watchful eye on how all that is spent? Will he continue to place transport investment at the heart of our recovery and his long-term vision for this country?
I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. He is absolutely right, and he has championed tirelessly for his constituents and the country the importance of transport in our levelling-up agenda and in helping to drive growth and spread opportunity. He is also right that we should be careful about how this money is spent and make sure that it is delivered. I talked about Project Speed earlier, and I would welcome his involvement and advice on that. He will notice in the spending review document a new focus on outcomes across public services with a new public value framework. That will deliver what he is asking for.
Could I raise with the Chancellor the issue of statutory sick pay? Even before the crisis hit earlier this year, statutory sick pay in the United Kingdom was not comparable with that in similar advanced economies. Sitting at only £95, we know that it is not enough for those who need it for self-isolation, and that it is estimated to make up only about a fifth of workers’ wages. Will the Chancellor look at building up the statutory sick pay mechanisms in this country, so that they are fit not just for the present times, but for the hard times people are going to face in future, and give workers the proper financial security they deserve and are lacking right now?
At the beginning of this crisis, we made changes to the way that statutory sick pay operates, ensuring that it was payable from day one rather than day four, and for those who are self-employed, and we made changes to the way that universal credit, employment and support allowance and the minimum income floor work—all to enable some of the things that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. It is worth bearing in mind that, on the last survey evidence we have, a majority of people —something north of 60%—get more than statutory sick pay as a result of the treatment of their employers.
I recognise that the Chancellor will have made the decision on 0.7% with an extremely heavy heart, but does he recognise that the respect felt for this country around the world is because we have championed causes throughout our history that matter to people everywhere, such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law? One of those causes is tackling extreme poverty. To cut our aid budget by a third in a year when millions more will fall into extreme poverty will make not just them poorer but us poorer in the eyes of the world, because people will worry that we are abandoning a noble ideal that we in this country have done more to champion than anyone else.
I am enormously grateful to my right hon. Friend for the approach that he has taken and I appreciate our conversations on this topic. Of course he rightly feels passionately about it. As he knows better than anyone, there are many ways in which we exert our influence and our values across the world—aid is just one part. Even at 0.5%, we will still be more generous as a percentage of GDP than almost all our major economy peers—France, Japan, Canada, Italy, the United States—and than the average of the OECD. The values that he cares deeply about I also care deeply about, and I look forward to talking with him further about how best we can express those values and make a difference to those who need our help everywhere that we find them.
Charities up and down the land will wonder why the Chancellor has abandoned them today. Charities have already accumulated £10 billion-worth of debt, and 20% of them could fold, despite the extraordinary work they have done for our nation during the pandemic. His statement says that there will be further rationing in the Office for Civil Society. Will he reflect on that and come back to the Dispatch Box with real money to support our valuable charities?
Almost uniquely among other countries during this crisis, we have provided enormous financial support to our charity sector. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has distributed £750 million to small and large charities up and down the country. They do fantastic work, and it has been a difficult time for them. That is why this Government stood behind them at a time of acute crisis.
On 26 February, I asked the Prime Minister to offer additional support to Wales over and above the devolved settlement in the face of unprecedented flooding caused by Storm Dennis. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that funding would be “passported” to Wales. Nine months later, with winter approaching, that funding still has not been delivered. What discussions has the Chancellor had about that, and when does he think the Government will be able to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promises to Welsh communities?
I believe we have, with £1.3 billion of extra funding next year for the Welsh Government to spend as they see fit on their devolved competencies, of which flooding is one. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can raise that with the Welsh Government. We in England are doubling investment in flood defences over the next few years to over £5 billion, protecting over 300,000 homes, and the £1.3 billion of Barnett funding for Wales will enable that funding to go to where it is needed.
I thank the Chancellor for his statement. Over the last 10 years, we have spent over £100 billion on overseas aid, with a lot of it borrowed. Most of my constituents will understand the difficult decision that the Government have had to make. At 0.5%, our aid spending will be higher than that of most of our neighbours, and probably higher than the Major Government and many other Governments in the past. He has set out the recovery in GDP and growth over the next three or four years, and no doubt the budget will go up again.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comment. He is right—I think the average aid spending of the last Labour Government was 0.36%, so it will be sufficiently ahead of that. As I said, we intend to return to this over time when the fiscal situation allows. He will appreciate better than others the unbelievable uncertainty at the moment, but that is our intention.
May I declare an interest in this question, as I suffer from myeloma, a form of blood cancer?
We all recognise and applaud the incredible work that the NHS and its staff have done for us all in the past few months. In terms of the future, does the Chancellor recognise, however, that much research for cancer is funded by charitable donations, which have fallen significantly during recent months for reasons that everyone can understand? To ensure that treatments continue to improve in the future, will he agree to fully fund cancer research to make up the difference in charitable donations, at least for the next few years?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I know that it is a topic on which he speaks passionately. He will be pleased to know more generally about our record spending on R&D next year of just shy of £15 billion; the exact allocation is for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but there is a significant increase for basic research. Also, within the Department of Health and Social Care Budget settlement, there is about £1.3 billion to fund research for the National Institute for Health Research and Genomics England—both of which do a fantastic job, and I am sure will be working on treatments for us all for many years to come.
I welcome the Chancellor’s continuing commitment to sound money. It is particularly easy to forget, in a year when we have just seen an 11.3% cut in the size of the economy, that ultimately, all the money that we are borrowing must eventually be paid back by us as taxpayers. So I urge him not to lose that focus, and as soon as possible to get back to a sustainable basis. As part of that, could he say more about the Restart programme, which he mentioned earlier—a crucial thing to get members of the long-term unemployed back into work? How many people does he expect that to help, and what benefit does he expect that to have for our long-term, sustainable economy?
As ever, my right hon. Friend speaks fantastically good sense. He is right; we will need to return to a sustainable fiscal position, not least to build resilience for the next crisis or shock that comes along. We want to be able to react in the same comprehensive and generous way that we did this time, and that requires us to have a strong set of public finances going into it.
My right hon. Friend is right about the Restart programme, which will help, we hope, around 1 million of those who are long-term unemployed; it will be an exciting and ambitious programme. The Institute for Employment Studies has spoken very well about the evidence in favour of that type of high-quality, individual work-focused approach making an enormous difference in getting people back into work. If we can do that, we can reduce some of the long-term scarring that they will face. So I have high hopes for what that programme can achieve.
I first welcome the £900 million that will be available to the Northern Ireland Executive, which is a reminder to the people of Northern Ireland of the economic security that we have as a result of being part of the United Kingdom. The Barnett consequentials for Wales and Scotland should also be a reminder to the people there of the benefits of the Union.
May I ask the Chancellor one thing about the levelling up fund, the infrastructure bank and the shared prosperity fund? When will he have the details of access to those, and can he assure us that the access to all those funds will be equally available to different parts of the United Kingdom?
I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. Those are UK-wide programmes and we hope to have more details about the infrastructure bank in the spring, so that we can get it up and running, at least in shadow form, as quickly as possible and make a difference to communities all around the United Kingdom.
May I first join my hon. Friends in expressing concern about the proposal to reduce overseas aid, but welcome today’s announcements in particular on infrastructure, apprenticeships and research and development, which will create wealth and jobs? I also welcome the substantial support that the Chancellor has provided to help businesses and people get through coronavirus. However, my constituents know that those measures will all have to be paid for, so can he assure them that when this economic emergency is over, he will return to a policy of balancing the books?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Although it is right to act in this way during the crisis, it would not be a sustainable way to operate. The important thing to know is that right now the focus should be on supporting businesses and jobs; but once our economic recovery is secure, we can turn our task to making sure that we have a strong set of public finances.
The Chancellor has announced a pay freeze for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers today who do not deserve it. Firefighters, care assistants and teaching assistants will all suffer a pay freeze. What is the assessment of the economic impact of that pay freeze? There must be one in the Treasury somewhere. What is it?
It would be wrong to describe this policy as a blanket pay freeze when a majority of those working in the public sector will see an increase in their pay next year, because they earn less than the UK median salary of £24,000 or they work in the NHS, or, indeed, they are on the national living wage. Across all those areas, there will be a pay increase. That will benefit millions of people and make a difference to the economy.
I welcome the significant financial commitment to mental health services. One of the striking takeaways in my constituency is the proliferation in anxiety, depression and sometimes addiction that is emerging from the crisis. We know that these have a pernicious correlation with long-term unemployment and, for that reason, I invite my right hon. Friend to keep a sharp focus on mental health spending over the years ahead, because the best training programmes and the best labour market interventions in the world will only work if the workforce is mentally well enough to engage.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point and it is a topic that she knows very well. I hope that she was heartened to hear what I said earlier about £500 million of the increase of £3 billion for the NHS this year being specifically targeted on mental health to address all the things she said. She is right about the difference they will make for many people in our country.
Over 4 million children are in poverty in the UK. Under successive Conservative Chancellors, Sure Start centres have closed, child trust funds have been slashed, nurseries today are on the brink of collapse and the number of children falling into poverty increases month after month. It is an unnecessary national tragedy, so why, especially at these difficult times, could the Chancellor not today commit to eradicating child poverty in his economic statement?
On the last numbers, there are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty than in 2010 and 750,000 fewer children living in workless households than in 2010. The hon. Gentleman asked about nurseries and early years. He will be pleased to know that an above-inflation increase in the hourly rate for nursery providers is contained in the spending review.
A few months ago, the Conservative party was clapping public sector workers. Now it is cutting the pay of millions. This crisis should not be paid for on the backs of the working class, but it is. Over 2 million people are now paid less than the minimum wage—up fivefold. Sick pay is so low that people are forced to choose between their health and putting food on the table, and millions of people’s benefits—largely sick and disabled people—will rise by just 37p a week. Instead of forcing millions into poverty, will the Chancellor impose a windfall tax on those who have made super-profits from this crisis?
The hon. Gentleman talked about those on the lowest pay. We accepted the recommendations from the Low Pay Commission to increase the national living wage by 2.2%. That will make a difference of £345 to full-time national living wage workers, as well as protecting those in the public sector who earn up to the average UK salary of £24,000, who will receive a £250 uplift.
I commend the Chancellor on many of these measures, including the support for the lower-paid. When it comes to funding, I encourage him not to stifle enterprise through increases in taxes, as these are often counter- productive. May I raise with him the case of social care workers? They provide an essential service but they are often overlooked, in part because they span the private and public sectors. What more can he do for them? For example, further to my letter to him, will he consider raising their personal tax threshold so that they can take home more of their pay?
My hon. Friend is right about the importance of social care workers. He will know that they are not formally part of public sector pay settlements, but many of them are national living wage workers, as he knows, so they will benefit from the increase of 2.2% that we are putting in place for next year. He will also know that we have already made a start in the Budget on our desire to raise the national insurance threshold, delivering cash benefits to people of about £100 this year, but it is something that we will keep under review for future fiscal events.
The Chancellor has already allowed UK unemployment to rise to 4.8% and expects it to rise further, with redundancies at a record high. Will he now admit his mistake in leaving the 3 million without furlough or the self-employed help scheme and give contractors, freelancers, creators and others the help that they so desperately deserve?
The OBR and others have said that our economic interventions have helped to keep down unemployment and protected jobs, and that is part of the reason why our unemployment rate is lower than that in Italy, France, Spain, Canada and the United States.
I support the Chancellor’s decision to cut the overseas aid budget, which will be widely welcomed across the country in the real world, even if not always in here. I do not see why it should be controversial to say that we should spend only what we can afford on overseas aid. I suspect that the vast majority of the British public will be asking not why he has cut so much, but probably why we are still spending so much. If some of that money that he is saving can be spent on the much-needed and long-awaited Shipley eastern bypass and on some proper flood defences in the Shipley constituency then so much the better.
I thank my hon. Friend for his support. He makes an important point: this spending review is about delivering on the British people’s priorities. Yes, we have made some tough choices, but we have done that so that we can continue investing in the things that our constituents value most. I look forward to talking to him further about the bypass and flooding defences that he needs, but, hopefully, with a doubling of our flood defences over this Parliament, it is something that we can make progress on for him.
May I place on record my thanks to the Chancellor for the recent announcement of support for airports, which has been very welcome? I also thank him for the measured and sensible way that he is approaching the unprecedented challenges that we are facing, but may I just raise the challenges facing the hospitality sector, which has been impacted more than any other? Although the Government have provided incredible support in recent months, the sector is facing real challenges this winter with the restrictions that we are placing on it. It says that 94% of businesses in tier 3 will be unviable, 74% in tier 2, and, even in tier 1, 30% of businesses are likely to be unviable. The sector has played an incredible part in our growth and job creation over the past 10 years and wants to continue doing so as we recover from this crisis. Will he please look again at what support we can give to the sector to make sure that it is still around in the spring to help our recovery?
My hon. Friend is, as ever, a passionate champion for the hospitality sector, and he is right to be so. It employs 2 million people, often lower paid, and it has been hit harder than almost anybody by this crisis, which is why, as he acknowledged, we have put in place unprecedented support, from VAT cuts, initiatives over the summer such as eat out to help out, business rates holidays and now cash grants when those businesses are either closed or in tier 2 areas facing restrictions to help get them through the winter. Those grants in general will equate to the rental payment of most of those businesses—we have that information and that is the single biggest fixed cost of hospitality businesses; and, of course, they can furlough their staff. I know that it is difficult, but, hopefully, those interventions will make a difference, because he is right that we want them to be able to bounce back strongly.
The midlands engine has identified priorities for investment as transport, digital connectivity and energy. That is what we need to enable the midlands and the UK to recover from this pandemic and to build back bigger, better and greener, but, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the east midlands has suffered the lowest level of transport spending per person since 2014-15. We have also been at the back of the queue for all capital spending for at least five years. If the Chancellor is serious about levelling up, can he guarantee that the east midlands will receive the highest allocation of any region when he hands out his new levelling-up fund?
The hon. Lady talked about a few different things, transport and digital connectivity being among the most important to her region. This spending review delivers on both those priorities, with record amounts of spending on road, rail, intra-city transportation, buses and cycling, and, on digital connectivity, with our plans to bring 85% of the country to gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, we are also delivering on the green plan that I outlined. I very much look forward to hearing from her and her local areas once we launch the levelling-up fund, because I am sure there will be projects we can make a difference to.
I welcome the levelling-up fund. From the outset I have been championing the Eden Project North in Morecambe, which is coming shortly, so will the Chancellor meet me to discuss it, as it is exactly the kind of shovel- ready project that would level up not just Morecambe, but the whole of our region?
Did the Chancellor get that?
Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it was something about the Eden Project. I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss his ambitions for his area and this project. I know he has put a lot of thought and energy into it, as has his community, and I very much hope we can make progress in the coming years.
In his statement, my right hon. Friend said:
“The spending announced today is secondary to the courage, wisdom, kindness and creativity it unleashes. These are the incalculable but essential parts of our future, and they cannot be mandated or distributed by Government.”
He is right on that, and the private sector and businesses will respond to what he has announced today. When it comes to the consideration of taxes, will he look to protect the incentives for those who invest and grow such businesses?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comment, as he is absolutely right, and from his own business experience he knows this well. He will know that one thing we do to incentive entrepreneurship through the tax system is our world-leading enterprise investment scheme and seed enterprise investment scheme programme, which provides significant support to private investors to help fund new businesses. We have expanded that scheme over time. I know he has thoughts on it, and I look forward to hearing them.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
The taxpayer support for British businesses and jobs during this pandemic has been a lifeline for many, but today we hear that Rolls-Royce, which has benefited handsomely from the public purse while moving highly skilled jobs abroad, intends to shut down its historic Barnoldswick site until after Christmas and offshore the work to Japan, Singapore and Spain, in a clear attempt to break the current industrial action there. Does the Chancellor agree that these kinds of bully-boy, strike-busting tactics are utterly unacceptable and that all the financial support must be immediately withdrawn until Rolls-Royce comes to its senses, ends its lockout and gets back to the table with Unite the union to resolve this dispute?
I know that the aerospace industry has been suffering a particularly difficult time over the past few months, and that has impacted businesses such as Rolls-Royce and others up and down the supply chain. We have put some measures in place to help airports and get people flying again, and we enjoy conversations with specific companies all the time. I urge all companies to work constructively with their workforces through what is a difficult period and, we hope, find resolution. Collectively, we are all trying to protect jobs, but of course this is a very challenging set of circumstances.
The £325 million for the NHS to invest in the new diagnostic kit is really welcome, as will be the £1 billion to begin tackling the elective backlog caused by covid. May I ask the Chancellor to stick with that? What freedoms will my local NHS trusts have to spend that money? I have constituents who are waiting for a knee op or a hip op, and although those may not be life or death issues, they are massively life-impacting issues, as people are being prevented from getting on with their lives, working or enjoying their children and grandchildren. I ask the Chancellor to stick with that and clear the backlog.
My hon. Friend of course knows about this particularly well from his own experience, and he is right. One of the implications of the lockdown and what we have done in the past is that we have this backlog now. He rightly says that it makes a difference to people’s day-to-day quality of life, which is why we have provided £3 billion, of which £1 billion is to tackle exactly that elective backlog. It will enable 1 million more scans and treatments to happen, and, as he says, it is something we should stick with.
More than 1 million 1950s-born WASPI—Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign—women remain in the workforce, including in front-facing roles. Many had planned to retire but cannot do so because the Chancellor’s Government hit them with a lengthy delay in accessing their pensions. WASPI women have asked me why the Chancellor cannot sort out their pensions, allowing them to retire and freeing up their jobs for others. That would be a win-win for the Chancellor and WASPI women, so will he look to do it?
The case has been settled in the courts and there is not much further I can add, but today we have announced an uplift of 2.5% for 12 million pensioners on the state pension, which I know will make a difference to many.
I am sure the Chancellor shares my vision that Milton Keynes and the wider Thames valley can be the silicon valley of Europe. We know that 88% of UK companies are currently experiencing a lack of digital skills, and that this is costing our economy £63 billion a year. May I therefore ask whether the proposal for a brand new STEM-focused science and digital technology university in Milton Keynes would be eligible to apply for funding from the new £4 billion pot for levelling up?
We will publish further details on how the levelling-up fund will work in due course. It is for those smaller, deliverable, everyday infrastructure projects that I have talked about. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to champion technology, innovation and digital adoption by small and medium-sized enterprises. He will be pleased to know that the spending review confirms just over £50 million to support the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to deliver productivity-enhancing programmes for SMEs. I think that one of those does involve the use of digital technology, in which the UK lags behind its peers.
We know that families are really struggling right now. The Bank of England has said that the inflation forecast next year is 2%. Can the Chancellor guarantee that the 2.1 million public sector workers he referred to will not face a real-terms pay cut next year? Will he also explain why on earth he is still going ahead with the appalling £1,000 cut in universal credit, which will hit millions of families across the country at this incredibly difficult time?
Those in the public sector who earn less than £24,000, which is the UK national median wage, will receive a fixed increase of at least £250. That is 2.1 million people—38% of the workforce. [Interruption.] Well, it will depend on each worker’s exact salary, but there will be a fixed increase of £250 for all of those 2 million workers.
I welcome much of the Chancellor’s statement, and look forward to sending him the bid for the Ripley-Codnor bypass. Is he able to offer any encouragement to the supply chain of the hospitality industry? He is supporting the restaurants and pubs that are closed, but not the important businesses that supply them and also cannot trade because they have no customers to sell to.
Obviously those businesses will be able to use the generous terms of the furlough scheme for their staff through the winter period. The more than £1 billion of funding that we made available to local authorities before the start of the latest national restrictions was also to support businesses and local economies in the way that authorities saw fit throughout the winter period. That funding is available at a local level, perhaps to do some of the things that my hon. Friend mentioned.
The Chancellor has promised the British people a green jobs revolution, but the UK is fast falling behind countries like France and Germany. We need investment in the jobs of the future now. What immediate steps will the Chancellor be taking to support green infrastructure projects such as offshore wind and the Mersey tidal projects, and green jobs on Merseyside?
I do not believe that we are behind France and Germany. We are phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles 10 years before France, and we are phasing out coal 13 years before Germany. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan will support up to a quarter of a million green jobs, building on the progress that we have made by being the country that has decarbonised the fastest out of all major economies.
My constituency is home to the global headquarters of AstraZeneca, the private sector company that has committed to producing, on a not-for-profit basis, the so-called Oxford vaccine—not just for the British population, but for developing countries around the world. It is doing that through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, of which the UK, as the Chancellor said earlier, is the biggest financial supporter. The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest crisis facing the world, and the UK is in a leading position in tackling it. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a result of the spending review, the UK will continue to be able to play that leading role against the pandemic?
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. He highlights a perfect example of this country making an enormous difference to millions of people around the world, not just with our aid budget but through the quality of our research and then our desire to find commercial partners who will bring that life-saving treatment to millions of people at cost. It is a fantastic example, and my hon. Friend is right to highlight it.
It was frankly opprobrious that there was nothing today to help the 3 million people excluded from Government support schemes. They are desperate, they are struggling, and some have even taken their own lives. Will the Chancellor tell me whether we are to assume that, after eight months without any change in policy, he deems it politically expedient to exclude these people, because they just do not matter?
I am sure the hon. Lady heard the answer to the previous question on this issue. She keeps mentioning this 3 million figure without giving an explanation of whether she agrees that 1.5 million of those people should be included, given that they make the majority of their earnings from employment and are eligible to be furloughed. Indeed, that approach was supported by all trade organisations at the time when the scheme was launched.
Fifteen years after the MG Rover collapse, there is still 150 acres of unused land in Longbridge that could be used to provide much-needed jobs locally. Will the Chancellor support my campaign, along with Mayor Andy Street, to make sure that Longbridge is at the top of the list when it comes to levelling-up and that we have those jobs right across Northfield?
That sounds like an excellent idea. I hope that the £400 million brownfield fund, which is part of our housing fund, could be of help. I know that Mayor Andy Street has spoken to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about how best he can access the brownfield fund, and this sounds like exactly the kind of project that it is designed to help.
The Chancellor has repeatedly said that he does not recognise them, but today 3 million taxpayers—including many of my constituents—who have been excluded from any support at all will have been in anguish waiting for his statement. Far from protecting lives and livelihoods, he has let them down yet again. Their income is down to zero, they are losing their homes and unable to feed their families and—again—some have even taken their own lives. Is it that the Chancellor does not understand the heartache and hopelessness of poverty? Or is it simply that he just does not care?
Anyone in the circumstances described by the hon. Lady would surely be eligible for support through universal credit, which can provide, depending on the circumstances, somewhere between £1,500 and £1,800 per family per month to help to support them if that is what they need. She talks about the self-employed as if perhaps they are not also people who benefit from better hospitals, better schools, better local infrastructure and safer streets. That is what this spending review delivers, and it will benefit everybody in the United Kingdom in that way.
I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and strongly applaud the Government’s commitment to fund the NHS with investment not only in hospitals, such as the £3 million for the A&E at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, but in diagnostic equipment, as well as for more nurses and GP appointments. Will he outline how these commitments help the Conservative party to meet its manifesto commitment to deliver stronger public services, such as through 50,000 more nurses?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: not only are we maintaining our commitment to the NHS’s five-year long-term settlement, but we are providing additional funds, with £3 billion for covid recovery this year, and also providing fully the extra funding required to deliver on the commitments to 50,000 more nurses, 50 million more GP appointments and, indeed, 40 new hospitals.
The British people have faced an incredibly difficult year, with covid and the resulting economic crisis. We then have the looming prospect of either a no-deal Brexit or a minimalist one that will be very disruptive for businesses. The OBR has forecast a 5.2% loss of potential GDP over the next 15 years, while the Governor of the Bank of England has said that with a no-deal Brexit we could see a situation that is two to three times as bad. How much more economic carnage and unemployment should the British people expect, with these two scenarios on top of coronavirus and its impacts?
All I would say is that our teams are hard at work, and I am very hopeful that we can reach a constructive agreement with our European friends and partners. Our wishes in this negotiation have always been consistent and transparent and are based entirely on the precedent of what other countries have achieved with the EU, so I am very much hopeful that, with good work and a constructive attitude, we can get there.
In what must be the most challenging circumstances ever to deliver a spending review, I welcome the Restart scheme to help the unemployed. Last year, £500 million was announced to help youth services, and Southend YMCA greatly benefited from that. Will the Chancellor recommit to that £500 million, and will he set out a timeframe in which that can be delivered over the next five years?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of youth services. I am not entirely sure exactly which bit he refers to, but I am happy to talk to him further about it. He will see in today’s spending review that the National Citizen Service is still there and we have provided more funding for capital projects for youth organisations, but I will happily pick up the specific case he mentioned separately.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, particularly the levelling-up fund. May I make an immediate representation for dualling of the A64 in my constituency? I also welcome the changes to the Green Book. Will he take a similar look at the housing infrastructure fund, which also has a built-in bias towards spending in London and the south-east?
I know that this is an area that my hon. Friend knows particularly well, so I am very happy to take him up on that suggestion and discuss his concerns with the Housing Secretary. I thank him for bringing it to my attention.
There are some positives for the NHS in the Chancellor’s statement, but it does feel like there is a blind spot: in the detailed documents, as far as I can tell, there is only one reference to cancer. Bear in mind that clinicians estimate that we will unnecessarily lose 60,000 years to cancer deaths during this time, and that it may take five years for the NHS to catch up with the colossal cancer backlog. There is no reference in the Chancellor’s statement to the urgent investment in radiotherapy or other treatment mechanisms that is necessary to catch up with cancer. Will he think again? Will he meet me and a cross-party group of MPs, clinicians and patients living with cancer, so that he can think again, act now and save lives?
Of course, it will be for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to do the detailed allocation of this budget, but I would point to the £3 billion for covid recovery, £1 billion of which is to help tackle the backlog of elective surgery and of screening and diagnostics, which I think will help. We have also provided £325 million to invest in new diagnostic machines, replacing about two thirds of ageing machines, which presumably helps with referrals and identification of cancer, but of course the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will be the best person to discuss the exact allocation of the increased NHS budget.
I praise the measured and sensible way that the Chancellor has approached this spending review, and I welcome in particular the infrastructure fund. With levelling up in the north of England a real priority, I look forward to discussing more projects for Warrington South with him. I am particularly pleased to see that those working in the lowest-paid public sector jobs will get a pay increase, but can he confirm that the extra police officers promised for Cheshire will be delivered so that we can tackle antisocial behaviour and protect our communities from the dreadful impact of county lines drug gangs?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of safer streets. I am pleased to tell him that this spending review makes available £400 million more for the Home Office and local policing to make sure that we can recruit an additional 6,000 police officers next year, on top of the 6,000 this year, in order to make great progress on our way to 20,000 by 2023.
My right hon. Friend has had to make some tough decisions on issues such as foreign aid, but can he assure me that by doing that, he will be able to focus on domestic priorities and a levelling-up agenda that can do so much for so many in Teesside?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This spending review is about focusing on the priorities of our constituents. I am sure that he and his constituents will be pleased to know that we have made £3 million available today for the Tees Valley hydrogen transport hub. Teesside is at the heart of our hydrogen revolution, bringing new jobs, attracting investment and driving growth in his local area. That is an example of the kind of local priority that we can now fund, having made these tough decisions.
The Chancellor said that he wants to invest in the places that we call home, but the homes of thousands of leaseholders are currently worthless fire risks because of the cladding scandal that they did not cause. He will be well aware that the £1.6 billion that he has already allocated is nowhere near enough to make all those homes safe again. The leaseholders do not have the money and, as far as I can tell from the Blue Book, not a single additional penny has been allocated. How much longer will my constituents have to wait before they can once again call the place in which they live a home?
We have made available £1.6 billion, which means that, at this moment, 80% of high-rise buildings with aluminium composite material cladding have work under way or complete. That number is likely to rise to 100% by the end of the year.
With regard to people who are unable to move, I think the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the issue with the EWS1 certificates. The Minister for Housing, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), made a statement on that recently, but the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that £700,000 was made available to help more assessors to qualify to undertake those assessments. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is in conversations with UK Finance and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to ensure that the use or demand of those certificates is appropriate and proportionate to the needs of the situation.
I understand that my right hon. Friend has had to make some difficult decisions as we seek to rebuild our economy in the months ahead. I am delighted to hear his commitment to investment in infrastructure, but can he set out what that means for the north, in particular York and north Yorkshire? What benefits will it bring to my constituents?
My hon. Friend is right that it is about making difficult decisions so that we can prioritise the things that our constituents want us to. In his area, he will be pleased that there has been a success in accessing the new stations fund for Haxby station. That is an example of the Government delivering on our promises and trying to find ways to improve local transport infrastructure in his local area to drive growth and opportunity. We will relentlessly focus on those types of priorities.
I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether we can have the new infrastructure bank in Yorkshire, in particular in Huddersfield. Is he sure that he has paid enough attention to the tremendous challenge of young people’s unemployment and young people who want to get into a job and be trained? Is the programme that he announced today sufficient to train a whole new generation of young people as green apprentices?
I would, of course, be sympathetic to the idea of putting the bank in Yorkshire, as the hon. Gentleman knows, but he was slightly beaten to the punch over the weekend by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who made a pitch for Bradford. In any case, I will happily hear his thoughts.
The hon. Gentleman is right about the focus on young people. The new Restart programme will be able to help a million people who have been unemployed for over a year. Before that happens, we have the kickstart programme that will benefit a quarter of a million young people—or more if it is successful. He talked about apprenticeships. Rightly, we have increased the cash bonus to businesses to £3,000 for them to take on a fresh new young apprentice, because he is right that that is where our focus should be.
I thank the Chancellor for the range of measures to support those on low incomes and to protect the most vulnerable, whether that is through an uplift to cash for local authorities to identify and support vulnerable families, or through the holiday activities and food programme and an uplift to the Healthy Start programme. Levelling up is crucial to a seat such as Wolverhampton North-East. Can he reassure my constituents that the Government will continue to prioritise job creation, investment and other opportunities for them?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government are committed to spreading opportunity across the country, especially in places where people feel they have not had the same fair crack of the whip. Our levelling up fund is designed to correct that. Today, her local area will be benefiting from discounted funding from the Public Works Loan Board to help with local infrastructure projects. That is a symbol of our commitment to her area and her constituents.
The Chancellor said that my hon. Friends were wrong about the number of working people excluded from financial support. It is the freelancers and the self-employed who have not had any support who think that he is wrong. In the Liverpool city region, the Mayor, Steve Rotheram, has found a package to support some of the people who have been excluded. When will the Chancellor step up, support Steve Rotheram, Andy Burnham and the other Labour leaders in local government, and put a support package together? He has to admit that these people have not qualified for furlough, self-employed support or business grants, and most of them are not eligible for universal credit. When is he going to end this burning injustice?
Some £1 billion has been provided to local authorities across the country to support their businesses and local economies as they see fit. That funding has, of course, been made available to the hon. Gentleman’s local authority. If that is how it chooses to use the funding, that is up to the local authority. We have provided a range of different support, whether loans, access to our more generous welfare system or mortgage holidays that, in the end, one in six mortgage holders used. Those are all ways by which we have tried to do our best to provide support to the largest number of people possible.
I wholeheartedly welcome the announcement that doctors, nurses and NHS workers will be getting a pay increase. This crisis has shown that we desperately need to invest in our urgent care capacity. That is why I have been campaigning for new urgent care centres for both Tameside Hospital and Stepping Hill Hospital. Will the Chancellor confirm that the Government remain 100% committed to the NHS hospital upgrade programme?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. On top of the existing in-year funding we have provided to deal with winter pressures for A&E, the spending review confirms £3.7 billion of funding over the next few years to deliver both the 40 new hospitals we have talked about and 70 hospital upgrades. Rest assured; we remain completely committed to this programme.
I thank the Chancellor for his statement and welcome the additional financial support for the Northern Ireland Executive. I also look forward to the detail of the pay rise for nurses, doctors and healthcare workers, and how Northern Ireland healthcare professionals can benefit. In my constituency of Upper Bann, the private sector has been absolutely devastated by covid-19. Had it not been for the support provided by him, many businesses would be closed. What will the Chancellor do to ensure that the private sector recovery is supported across the United Kingdom, and will he undertake to show his clear commitment to a UK-wide recovery by visiting my constituency, when restrictions permit, to meet businesses who want to thank him and be part of our national economic recovery?
I thank the hon. Lady for her kind comments. She is right about the importance of our businesses, especially our small and medium-sized businesses, in helping to drive our recovery. We have provided cash grant support to those most impacted by the restrictions and that extra funding comes to Northern Ireland. On a UK-wide basis, we have provided tax cuts, grants, loans and other measures that she will be aware of. She can rest assured that I will keep all that in my mind as we think about how to exit the crisis. I look forward to my first visit as Chancellor, hopefully, to Northern Ireland in the near future.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement this afternoon. He will know that affordable housing is needed in my constituency, but that development is constrained by green belt, which we are rightly enhancing and protecting as a manifesto commitment. Therefore, will he outline what fiscal steps he is taking to support councils like mine to regenerate brownfield sites?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of going to brownfield first. Today’s spending review makes available an additional £100 million for non-mayoral combined authorities to access remediation funding. My right hon. Friend the Housing Secretary will be able to talk to her in more detail about that, but it is exactly the kind of thing that I think could make a difference in her constituency.
By introducing the emergency measure to increase universal credit by £20 per week, the Chancellor was acknowledging what many people have known for years: universal credit is simply not enough to live on. If that was the case during the pandemic, why will he not commit to retaining this uplift permanently?
We put in place a range of temporary measures because we were dealing with an unprecedented crisis. We are now working our way through that crisis, and the future looks considerably brighter than it did in March, not least because of the medical advancements and our ability to do improved testing, so we can look forward. We keep everything under review. The uplift lasts all the way to the spring. As we get to the spring and have more clarity about the future path of our economy and restrictions, we will of course be mindful of how to support and protect those who are most vulnerable in our society.
While I share some of the concerns expressed by colleagues about the aid budget, I think that if we are to continue asking our constituents to make sacrifices, this temporary move is the right one. Can the Chancellor give an assurance that the Greater Grimsby town deal, which is of great benefit to my constituency, will continue to be funded? He is aware from a note I gave him last week that modest support for LNER would restore our direct rail service to London, and I hope he can provide that.
I thank my hon. Friend for his support. He is right about my need to make difficult decisions and tough choices so that we can prioritise the things that he talked about. I believe that his local area has received some seed funding to examine proposals for the south Humber line, which I hope will make a difference to his constituents. I hope that he and I can have a productive conversation about our levelling-up fund, as we figure out how best to support the wonderful town of Grimsby with its future ambitions.
It is irresponsible to pit public sector and private sector workers against one another in the race to the bottom on wages, especially when key workers across both sectors kept us going through the pandemic. Notwithstanding the small amount given to low-paid workers, who frankly deserve better, this pay freeze for civil servants will also freeze any meaningful action on tackling the gender pay gap in the civil service, which is 12%. Will the Chancellor outline what discussions he has had with the Cabinet Office about eradicating the gender pay gap in Departments?
For the record, no one is trying to pit anyone against anyone else. This is simply about doing what is fair for the country. It is the right decision to make. It is a difficult decision, but we have taken a targeted approach to protect those on lower incomes and those in the NHS, ensuring that a majority of public servants will receive an increase in their pay next year. I would be happy to go away and look at the gender pay gap in the civil service and ensure that we are making good progress on eliminating it.
We all want to see people’s wages go up again after the pandemic, and my right hon. Friend’s statement provides a strong foundation for securing that. At a time when many workers in the private sector face cuts or job losses, I can understand why it is necessary to pause public sector pay rises, other than those for frontline NHS workers and those earning less than the national average. Will he join me in urging the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to ensure that that freeze also extends to the salaries of Members of Parliament?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and the way he framed it was spot on. He will be reassured to know that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has written to IPSA on behalf of the Government, the Prime Minister and I to express our views on the situation, to inform it about the pay policy that we have put in place in the public sector and to urge it to take account of that when it sets pay policy. Of course, it is an independent body, but I hope very much that it will look at what we are doing.
The Youth Violence Commission report, published earlier this year, highlighted the importance of high-quality youth services provision, yet in a recent written response to the report, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), made no mention of the youth investment fund, and neither did the Chancellor today. Indeed, when the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) asked about it, the Chancellor did not seem to know what he was on about. Does this mean that the promised and already delayed £500 million has been shelved?
No, it has not been shelved, and I can he tell the hon. Lady that there is extra funding in this spending review for youth services. There is an amount of money for extra capital projects for youth clubs and, of course, funding for the National Citizen Service. More generally, the Government will review their approach to all youth services later this spring, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will set out the details in due course.
I welcome the focus on infrastructure in the statement. As my right hon. Friend knows, I chair the all-party parliamentary group on infrastructure, and I can tell him that the industry has been looking for the certainty that he is providing today. Does he agree that that certainty will allow the industry to plan better and, through that, to deliver better value and develop skills programmes, including apprenticeship programmes?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is because of that multi-year certainty, particularly on the capital side, that we can deliver projects more efficiently, faster and at lower cost. That certainty also helps the supply chain to take on new apprentices—helped, indeed, by our apprenticeship bonus as well. He is absolutely right to say that we must train the next generation and create jobs as we deliver this infrastructure, and that is exactly what we are doing.
Britain’s publicans and the wider hospitality trade are facing a catastrophic Christmas. The Government’s mishandling of coronavirus, the lack of evidence behind their policies, particularly on pubs, and the lack of a financial package to support pubs after the second lockdown will mean that many of them never open their doors again. Rather than getting to his feet and congratulating them on what they did in the first lockdown, will the Chancellor actually give Britain’s publicans some kind of sense that a package is coming that might see them through the winter?
The reason I talk about the things that we have done is that they last all the way through the winter to next spring, whether it is the VAT cut or the business rates holiday. I have consistently come to this Dispatch Box to support the hospitality industry. Many times I have been accused of doing the wrong thing by Opposition Members, but the local restrictions grants that we put in place will last through the winter, which means that if a pub is closed, it will receive up to £3,000 per month. When we look at the average rateable value of a pub in England, we see that the vast majority of small and medium-sized pubs will have their rent covered by that. Of course, they can furlough their staff as well, and those pubs operating in tier 2 areas under restrictions will still get a grant worth 70% of that value. Of course we are trying to do what we can to support the hospitality sector. I have done that since the beginning of this crisis, and I will keep doing so.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement today and on his stamina, as mine will be the 80th question he has answered so far this afternoon. Rough sleeping and tackling the causes of rough sleeping are subjects close to my heart. Sadly, in my constituency, we see more rough sleepers than in any other constituency in the United Kingdom. Will my right hon. Friend give me an assurance that today’s statement will provide financial support so that we can focus on the Government’s priority to end rough sleeping by 2024?
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. I think £254 million has been made available to local authorities to help them to end rough sleeping. That is a 60% increase in cash terms on the money available this year. She is absolutely right to say that this is something we must end, and I know that the funding will make an enormous difference in her constituency. I know this is an issue that she cares passionately about.
Braehead Foods is a large employer in my constituency that supplies top-quality produce all over the United Kingdom. Furlough has been welcome for the company, but it needs additional support to cover fixed overheads while borrowing is maxed out and orders are almost non-existent. Will the Chancellor please reconsider past requests from myself and the Federation of Wholesale Distributors to provide a grant or rates relief system that can be replicated in Scotland for UK food wholesalers such as Braehead that are above the £51,000 business rates threshold, so that they can stay afloat and play their part in the post-covid economic recovery?
Business rates are, of course, a devolved competency, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman can talk to the Scottish Government about their plans. They will receive £2.4 billion of Barnett consequentials as a result of what we are doing this year, and they could choose to use some of that funding to provide support in the way that he asks.
Earlier this week, I spoke to many people and companies— training providers and others—in my constituency about apprenticeships, and how we need to improve the system and make it more flexible. Will the Chancellor set out in further detail what the measures in this spending review will do to help businesses, training providers and young people get the apprenticeships they deserve?
My hon. Friend knows this well, from his own business experience, and he is absolutely right. What businesses have been asking for is more flexibility on how levy funds are used. I am pleased that we can deliver that today. It means businesses can transfer their unspent levy funds down the supply chain easily, in bulk, to small and medium-sized companies. We are going to create a matching service for that to happen, and we are also going to allow employers, in certain industries at first, to front-load some of their training funding, which is what they also wanted. Those obviously will be funded by the Government—all those changes that happen as a result of our getting less in the levy funding—but we think they are the right thing to do. They will support business and support apprenticeships, and he is right to raise it.
The focus on the NHS and infrastructure is welcome. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn is on the frontline of dealing with covid, and it is 40 years old but was built to last only 30 years. Will my right hon. Friend look seriously at the compelling case for QEH to be one of the eight additional hospitals to be built on top of the 40 announced today?
I look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend about the plans and the ambitions he has for his local hospital. The Secretary of State for Health will also be interested. My hon. Friend will know how committed we all are to improving our hospitals and having new ones across the UK. There is funding for that today, but I am happy to discuss it further.
In Wales, aerospace generates £1.47 billion in GVA for the Welsh economy. Since the pandemic, GE Aviation, which employs 200 of my constituents, has suffered 600 job losses, with future job losses likely. The sector faces a very uncertain future, which will have a devastating impact on our communities. These highly skilled workers have transferable skills. With the Chancellor’s stated interest in funding the development of green initiatives, will he consider a sector-specific package to support such a development for my constituents?
I know from my conversations with the industry that one of the things it was very keen to see was an extension of our job support and furlough schemes, which is something we have been able to provide, and I know that will make a difference in preserving those valuable skill matches the hon. Member talked about. She will also know that there is an existing research and development park that the Department for Business runs, where it works with the aerospace industry to provide access. Some of the new R&D we have put aside for our net zero transition will also help because it is designed for reducing emissions and finding new ways in the transportation sector.
As somebody who campaigns to protect green-belt land, I welcome my right hon. Friend’s additional investment in prioritising brownfield developments. His changes to the Green Book will also benefit the north-west in relation to infrastructure investment. Will he say more about what he can do to incentivise business growth in the north of England, which will bring jobs and, importantly, tax revenue to fund many of the spending commitments he has announced today?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Although not part of the spending review, just very recently announced is the extension to the annual investment allowance, which was due to expire at the end of this year. This allows small and medium-sized companies to write off, in full, investments of up to £1 million, so that is a tax break that we are extending into next year. I know that it will be warmly welcomed by businesses in his constituency, and it will allow them to invest in their growth in a tax-advantaged way.
Brighton and Hove has double the national average number of people renting their homes, yet the cost of rental in Brighton and Hove is the same as in central London. I am hearing from an alarming number of people who are struggling to pay their rent. They are either running businesses or they are in employment that is not covering the bills. They are running out of savings, and soon they will be destitute. Can the Chancellor say—he did not say anything about rental homes in his statement—what assistance can be given to making sure that people can stay in their homes till the end of this crisis and then start earning money again?
What I can say is that the local housing allowance uplift that we put in place this year will be maintained into next year—the £1 billion—and I know that is of benefit to about 1 million households, at about £600 each. That is the main announcement today, but I would be very happy to hear if there are further things. The hon. Member will know about our £12 billion affordable homes programme, which is designed to build 180,000 affordable homes over the coming years as well.
It is almost exactly a year since we launched our manifesto, and today’s sobering statement has laid bare the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s finances and the difficult choices the Chancellor is having to make. He has done well to keep manifesto pledges on track, but I feel I need to make it clear that I personally feel ashamed that the only manifesto pledge we are breaking today is our promise to the world’s poorest.
I know that this is a topic about which my hon. Friend feels passionately, and rightly so. As she will have heard me say, we do this with a heavy heart. It enables us to make progress on our other priorities, and it is indeed temporary. We intend to return to 0.7% when the fiscal circumstances allow.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, public sector pay is now at its lowest level in decades relative to that in the private sector. Although the announcement of a pay rise for NHS workers is welcome, other public sector workers will be put in even greater financial insecurity by the pay freeze. Does the Chancellor not feel that, in the context of the great work those people are doing in this pandemic, the public sector pay cap is a dramatic failure to show our appreciation for all their hard work?
The hon. Lady mentioned the relative pay premium. It is worth bearing in mind that there still is a pay premium. The latest numbers we have, from 2019, show a 7% pay premium between public and private sector wages. That premium will without doubt have been exacerbated by the growing disparity in public-private sector wages that we are seeing this year. So in the interests of fairness and of protecting public sector jobs, I think it is right that we have taken a targeted approach and prioritised pay rises for those on lower incomes and in the NHS.
I very much welcome the £4 billion levelling-up fund, but it cannot just be about the north and the midlands. Ipswich will need to be part of the mix as well. I also welcome the over £7 billion extra funding for schools, but I am very passionate about special educational needs provision, as the Chancellor will know, and I just wanted assurances from him. We are talking about this extra investment and the extra 500 schools in the next decade. That must include providing first-class special educational needs provision, which does cost a lot but is absolutely worth it.
I know about my hon. Friend’s passion for this subject and I am pleased to be able to tell him that £300 million has been allocated for new school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities, which is, I think, about four times as much as was provided to local authorities a year ago.
We have heard very much a smoke and mirrors statement today, with the Chancellor repeatedly saying that there is more cash year on year than in the last decade. Well, that is easy to say after 10 years of austerity and cuts. But I want to focus particularly on the local government settlement, which is a static settlement on the departmental expenditure limit but has this mysterious phrase, “core spending power”, which has become commonplace now in Government and includes the option to increase council tax. Council tax is a regressive tax. There are some councils with a very low council tax base where the percentage increase will mean very little money into the coffers. Even if they were to go down that route, how is he going to ensure, in his levelling-up agenda, that they do not lose out because they have a lower council tax base?
As a former local government Minister, which was my first job, I am happy to tell the hon. Lady that there is nothing smoke and mirrors about core spending power. It is the metric on which the local government finance settlement is done each year and it is the main metric on which it is focused. It is going up 4.5%, which is a very high level compared with that in any of the last years. She is right about how council tax works, which is why we have put in an additional £300 million of grant on top of the existing grant. Part of that is used for equalisation and the exact way that that works is a matter for MHCLG. As is always the case, we have an equalisation element to the grant to deal with the specific issue she raises.
First, may I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who has the most extraordinarily difficult job in juggling the nation’s finances at this time? I pay tribute to him for his investment in levelling up, and I also pay tribute to his focus on business, which, after all, is going to pay for all the money that he has just spent. However, will he perhaps tell me a bit about the aid budget? I have noticed 20 basis points moving from aid into defence. It is a very welcome defence budget, certainly, but at a time when aid has never been more needed in extending the perimeter of our public health to countries where the covid crisis would otherwise run wild, surely this is not exactly the right moment to be reducing those defences.
Secondly, does my right hon. Friend agree that the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015, to which he has made reference this afternoon, clearly gives him the opportunity to opt out of the 0.7% target according to three different metrics, all of which are covered by the covid crisis? He can therefore do his reduction, if he feels it is necessary, with no change in the law whatever.
I am thankful to my hon. Friend for his comments and, indeed, the constructive conversations I have had with him on our aid budget, our defence budget and, more generally, our place in the world, which he rightly champions, and he does a very good job at that. He is right that we should look holistically at this, and he made a good argument for why we play a role, particularly with providing security through our defence budget to many places. He is also right about the 2015 Act and the so-called ouster provision contained within it, but given that we cannot predict with sufficient certainty when exactly the current fiscal circumstances will have improved and given our need to plan accordingly, we do intend to look at bringing forward appropriate legislation in due course. However, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make a statement tomorrow and can answer the question in more detail.
May I admire my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s stamina in answering well over 90 questions? I also warmly welcome his statement this afternoon and in particular the £100 billion he announced on infrastructure spending, which includes some vital projects in my constituency, notably the levelling-up fund and the feasibility study for the Cirencester light railway, the reconfirmation of the funding for the A417 and, above all, the extra funding to improve gigabit broadband, which is an issue my rural constituency suffers from. Will he confirm that very hard-hit economies, such as Gloucestershire’s, will benefit from this infrastructure funding, and that it will help speed up a strong recovery?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words in support. He is absolutely right: we want to ensure that this record investment in infrastructure brings tangible benefits to our constituents wherever they live, whether that is in the rural south-west or a town up in the north-east. All the people of this country should see measurable improvement in the quality of their lives and see the opportunities that they can seize ahead of them. That is something that the Government will focus relentlessly on and intend to deliver.
It is not often that I get to bring a smile to the Chancellor’s face, but that is it. I thank him for his statement today and answering the questions. He was on his feet from 12.45, which is over two and a half hours. I am extremely grateful, as I am sure is the entire House of Commons.
I have now to announce the result of today’s deferred Division on the motion relating to the draft European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Relevant Court) (Retained EU Case Law) Regulations 2020. The Ayes were 354 and the Noes were 261, so the Ayes have it.
[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]
We will now suspend for a brief period for the sanitisation of the Dispatch Boxes and the safe departure and entrance of Members of Parliament.
Virtual participation in proceedings concluded (Order 4 June)